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1. Examine the essential principles of the Subsidiary Alliance system. Assess its contribution in making the British the paramount authority in India.


Subsidiary Alliance system was a policy of supporting a friendly native ruler with troops in his wars and battles in exchange for money or territory. Essential features of subsidiary alliance as adopted and further refined by Lord Wellesley, in 1798, can be seen as:

  1. The state would accept permanent stationing of British force in their territory and pay for its maintenance.
  2. A British resident would be appointed in the court of the native ruler.
  3. The seminal condition of Subsidiary alliance was non-employment of other Europeans in service without the consultation of the EIC.
  4. The Indian ruler could neither not go to war nor negotiate with any Indian ruler without the permission of the Governor General.
  5. Under the subsidiary alliance, the native ruler would surrender foreign relations to the EIC.

The subsidiary alliance system worked in chronological phases, as seen from:

  1. Firstly, the EIC helped a friendly native ruler with its troops in their wars and battles.
  2. Secondly, the EIC made common cause with the native Indian state and the company’s troops fought along with soldiers of the State in wars against the enemy.
  3. Thirdly, the Indian ally was to supply money but not the troops, which were now provided by the company.
  4. Lastly, Indian ally was asked to cede parts of territory if the state failed to pay the protection fee in stipulated time.

The relevance of subsidiary alliance system in making the British the paramount power can be assessed as:

           Helped Colonial interests

             Complementary factors

1. Native rulers ceded their territory and helped the company expand its dominions in India.


2. This system helped the Company to effectively counter possible French

incursion, during Napoleon era, in India.


3. Indian rulers immediately lost

sovereignty in external matters and

gradually became subservient to the

British resident who interfered in

internal matters also.


4. Company could station its forces at

strategic locations and keep their

European/Indian adversaries at bay.


5. Indian rulers became weak and

irresponsible, ceasing to be a challenge

for the Britishers.

1. The British had the service of brilliant military leaders. E.g., Robert Clive, Wellesley, Dalhousie etc.


2. The loss of French in the Anglo-Carnatic wars gave a major fillip to British colonial interests.

E.g., Dupleix was called back from India.


3. The rampant corruption in the courts of Indian rulers helped the EIC. E.g., easy victories in the battle of Plassey and the battle of Buxar etc.


4. Other factors:

a. Rule of law in Britain and innovative use of debt instruments ensured adequate



b. Superior arms, and military strategy.


c. Fair selection system for administrators

and military personnel.


d. Minimum interference in the company

affairs by the crown.


Though a shot in the arm for the British, immoral/illegal expansion under this system was one of the

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